Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 24, 2004

Dirt flies with local teen's motocross hobby

By Starrla Mathews

Gage Gutzmann of Winsted, 13, likes to make the dirt fly with an exciting hobby – dirt bike racing.

He participates in statewide competitions, and is active in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

With eight to 10 races in the winter series, and the outdoor season going from March 28 until Labor Day, Gutzmann races almost year round.

“The sport takes a lot of endurance. It’s a lot of hard work, and it’s more difficult than it looks!” Gutzmann said.

Gutzmann first became interested in the sport through his cousins. His dad bought him a bike when he was 10, and he’s been riding ever since.

“We enjoy practicing and going to the races, and it gives Gage something different to do,” his father, Chuck Gutzmann, explained.

Motocross has several races coming up. The entry fee for most races is around $25.

The races occur on Sundays, so the Gutzmanns usually drive up and spend the night on Saturday.

The tracks are located in places such as Kellogg, Mazeppa, Staples, and Millville.

“Millville is a national track. It’s one of the nicest,” Chuck commented.

A banquet is taking place along with the race at Staples May 30. At this event, top 10 finishers get to enter in a drawing to win a bike and trailer.

The sport is becoming increasingly popular, and Minnesota has produced some serious racers.

“We’re in a tough district,” his father, Chuck Gutzmann, commented. “Two or three of the kids in his class are probably going to nationals.”

In Gutzmann’s class, there are usually 30 to 40 bikes at the starting line. The race is four to five laps, depending on the size of the track.

There are two heats, which means that each contestant does two races.

Each race takes roughly 10 minutes. The times from both races are then added together to get the final score.

Gutzmann has been very successful in his competitions, and has won several trophies and plaques for his accomplishments.

“I really like racing. It’s fun, and I have friends and neighbors who are also interested in it,” Gutzmann said.

There are about 15 different levels and categories for motocross competition.

The classes are divided by age and bike size. Gutzmann is currently in the class for ages 12 through 15, with the bike size 85cc.

Riders can start at a young age, with the first competition class for riders between four and six years old.

There is also a class for people over 40, and a women’s division. One of the Gutzmanns’ favorite things about going to the races is getting to know the other participants.

They enjoy meeting people who share their love of motocross. “It’s a family atmosphere,” Chuck remarked. “Everyone helps everyone else.

“People are always giving advice, and helping each other’s kids. We’ve met a lot of good people.”

Because the sport is somewhat dangerous, the riders wear a considerable amount of protective gear.

They must wear special boots, kneepads, a chest protector, neck brace, and helmet.

Even with these precautions, Gutzmann has had his share of injuries. He’s broken his wrist once, and has broken his collarbone twice. “Broken collarbones are fairly frequent,” Chuck stated. “You just have to get over the fear.”

Despite these setbacks, Gage wasn’t about to give up. “It was kind of hard the first time, but it’s gotten a lot better,” Gage added.

Practice is one of the most important elements when it comes to dirt bike racing. A few years ago, one of Gutzmann’s friends built a track for Gage to practice on.

The track, which is located on their farm, includes dirt hills of various sizes made for jumping. “I practice every day, usually in three 20-minute sections,” said Gutzmann.

Dirt bike racing is a fast-paced sport, one that combines athletic endurance with driving skill.

Those who are interested in racing motocross in Minnesota may go to the District 23 web page at www.armca.org. This site includes all the information needed to sign up with the American Motorcycle Association.

For further information and racing photos, check out www.mnracing.com.

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